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By Phil Hall | September 18, 2001

Residents and visitors to Washington, D.C., might get a travelogue kick out of watching parts of “Five Lines,” a new independent feature shot around the American capital. But beyond seeing the inside of the Jefferson Memorial or the Potomac River at sunrise, the film has relatively little to offer but a quintet of unpleasant and implausible tales of lives gone seriously awry.
The title to “Five Lines” refers to the Washington Metro, which consists of five interconnecting subway lines that cover the city. Each line is nominally the setting for the five stories which make up the film. Admittedly, this is not the most clever foundation for creating a film and the progress of each storyline drags the audience into situations which require more than a little patience.
“Five Lines” tries to offer something for everyone in its selection of stories. Fans of the U.S. military will probably pay heed to the most gruesome tale, which focuses on a stupid sergeant who gets lassoed into joining his white trash barracks buddies in a night of gay bashing at the Iwo Jima Monument. The violence gets out of hand and two gay men are hospitalized…one of whom, as luck would have it, is the high school best friend of the sergeant. When the sergeant learns his bashed-up childhood friend is paralyzed, he informs the other army scum who participated in the attack that he is going to the police. This news, of course, is not well received.
For those who are old enough to recall the ABC After-School Specials from years back, there is a story which would have fit in perfectly there: a good-natured homeless black woman, through circumstances that could only exist on film, becomes the friend and teacher of a white teenage street tough. She finds his soul and he takes her home to his very surprised family, who set a place at the dinner table for her.
Addicts to Lifetime Television can hook into the story of a teenage girl who wanders around Washington taking snapshots with her disposable camera. Initially this seems like an extended product placement for Kodak, but eventually the girl collapses in a museum and awakes in a hospital to her bleary-eyed mother and a doctor who looks more like a matron from an old women-in-prison movie. It seems the poor kid is a runaway and the doctor diagnosed her collapse as being an inoperable aneurysm. Her mother and doctor are very concerned. Gee, some folks get a rough deal out of life.
Damon Runyan addicts might be intrigued in the offering about an inept con artist who tries to interest college fraternity members with a shady pyramid scheme. When the con man’s nervous partner decides to leave town rather than face a potentially fatal debt, the would-be sharpie displays locker-room wit and tact by comparing his partner to a body cavity unique to the female anatomy. This is the funniest part of that tale, which may give you an idea of the film’s idea of humor.
And for the old-fashioned romantics, there is the tale of a tiresome woman ping-ponging between two creepy lovers. One of the lovers is a musician with no talent. The other lover videotapes himself talking about how much fun he had making love with this comely wench. Eventually this becomes too much and the woman grabs the musician’s guitar and begins swinging it like QuickDraw McGraw’s masked alter ego, El Kabong.
Actually, it is a pity that El Kabong doesn’t make an appearance in “Five Lines” and kabong the cast on their noggins with his guitar. It would offer far more entertainment and a superior dose of sophistication to the puerile and pointless shenanigans offered here.
During the course of the movie, the teenage runaway gazes into the White House and announces her intention to take up residence there. The current resident in the White House is nowhere to be seen in this film, which is a shame since his intellectual prowess and elocutionary skills clearly suggest he would be perfectly at home in this mixed-up little movie.

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